One person’s quest for adventure and enrichment.
(Emphasis on the “one”.)
This week was the midpoint of the time in Milan, marked by a midterm exam which is best left forgotten. It has certainly reshaped my approach to the rest of the semester, which beyond the two upcoming class trips, will likely be confined to study and assignments.
However, as a reward for surviving the first half of the semester, I flew out the day after my exam to Catalunya, for a visit to Barcelona and the mountain range of Montserrat. It was certainly a change to be in the warmth and sunshine after the more mild weather of Milan.
I wandered through the streets of the Raval, the Ciutat Vella, and Barceloneta. I hiked to the castle at Montjuic and looked out over the dense sea of buildings and their abrupt termination at the waterfront. I walked Las Ramblas, but not with real intent.
And despite all the beauty, I never felt wholly satisfied. I certainly ate well, sampling the tapas, sipping beers and espressos at nameless bars where you could watch the food being prepared in front of you. I saw art, from the carefully curated collections of the museums to the organic sprawl of street statements. I stood transfixed before statues and shrines in cathedrals.
It was beautiful.
But I felt as if something was missing.
It was only on the final night, weary from hiking, sat at a bar in the Raval, that it clicked. Barcelona is not a city for the solo traveler. It is a city for friends. The tapas that is served is not a solo dish but an experience to be shared. The beers are social, not solitary. The lounge chairs on the playas are arranged in groups. It is a city to be shared. And absent of company, I felt out of place.
Certainly, Barcelona is not the only place like this. Amsterdam is another city for friends, Dublin too, even maybe Las Vegas. And then there are the cities for the lovers, places for two to walk together, such as the avenues of Paris or the canals of Venice.
But where are the cities for those who wander by themselves?
Solo traveling has usually been the way I have travelled over the years, from the youthful days where I skateboarded across borders, to business trips, to now. It’s usually out of circumstance rather than desire, companionship is not eschewed, but merely absent. I’ve dined alone in restaurants; in one instance, the staff even took pity, bringing me books to read in between courses.
As if nobody should dine alone.
It is rare to see it explored in media. The film “Lost in Translation” tried to explore the idea, with its sequence in Kyoto, placing the traveler as an observer, a passerby, a ghost, not interacting with the environment.
But is this what it means to travel alone? I am not sure. I want to be inspired, to be enriched, and yes, to have social interaction. Travelling alone is not necessarily introversion.
All said, I’m yet to find a true city for the solo traveler. I’m not even sure what it would be like.
The only logical option is to keep looking.
Observations on music, coffee, and the occasional controversial thought.
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